6:33 am March 14, 2018

Root Cause Analysis: 3 Ways to Use in Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy

Source: Kristen Cederlind

In the safety and regulatory worlds of both healthcare and employee management, root cause analysis is a key concept for workplace injury prevention. It can help facilities truly solve problems leading to incidents and near misses. Agencies, such as OSHA, urge facilities to conduct root cause analyses in order to implement fixes to prevent incident recurrence.

“A root cause analysis allows an employer to discover the underlying or systemic, rather than the generalized or immediate, causes of an incident. Correcting only an immediate cause may eliminate a symptom of a problem but not the problem itself.” (OSHA Fact Sheet: The Importance of Root Cause Analysis During Incident Investigation)

As healthcare professionals, we can examine this concept in relation to musculoskeletal symptoms occurring in the workplace.

  1. Recurrent Problem: Instead of merely treating a patient for the 3rd episode of shoulder tendinitis, we should be compelled to evaluate the job tasks causing this recurring inflammation. Only treating the symptoms and not evaluating the underlying source of the problem is like putting a Band-Aid on a blister. It might make the person feel better at first, but without removing the friction that created the blister to begin with, the solution is temporary.
  2. Risk Factors: Identifying the source of musculoskeletal symptoms requires a solid understanding of ergonomic risk factors that often contribute to musculoskeletal discomfort. These risk factors, including force, repetition, posture, vibration and contact stress, are key to identify and address.
  3. Solution Identification: Once the source of a musculoskeletal issue is identified, solutions must be implemented to mitigate further issues.   Gathering input from employees who perform the tasks, or use the equipment often lead to generating the most effective solutions.

Chances are, you have heard this definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Without striving to get to the root of musculoskeletal issues, this definition may apply.

To learn more about this important topic, check out OSHA’s The Importance of Root Cause Analysis During Incident Investigation. WorkWell’s online Manufacturing Ergonomics course can help give you a systematic approach to ergonomics analysis. Contact us today to learn more.

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